India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Kanpur, 3rd day November 26, 2009

Sree lets the ball do the talking

Cricinfo staff
On the third day in Kanpur, Sreesanth didn't need the verbals; the ball did the talking for him

Sreesanth covered his face as soon as the ball flashed from Mahela Jayawardene's outside edge and past the narrow alley between MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar at first slip. It was probably the ball of the day: it was the first ball Jayawardene was facing and, perhaps sensing his vulnerability, Sreesanth pitched it fuller and shaped it away just enough to prompt Jayawardene to play at it. Where once Sreesanth might have walked up to the batsman and indulged in a bit of verbal, today he walked back quietly with a faint smile.

Today, Sreesanth didn't need the verbals; the ball did the talking for him. Such was his allure that each time he ran in Green Park buzzed with expectation. And when he had finished his job and led his team off the pitch, it was incredible to think he was coming into this Test without any international cricket for the past 19 months and without much match experience of any sort.

Yet, as he later said, he was "hungry to take the "new ball". The aim was not to go full throttle straightaway, though he did hit Tharanga Paranavitana's helmet with an accurate bouncer. On a docile pitch Sreesanth understood that trying to hit express pace would be futile; the focus was on hitting that length from where he could make the batsmen play and vary pace.

"This was a wicket where the faster you bowl the easier it is to bat. It was important to make him (batsman) play early and make him play late and it was a mixture of lots [of deliveries]," Sreesanth said while explaining his strategy.

He then started shaping the ball both ways, sowing the seeds of doubt in the Lankan minds. The first over was a maiden to Paranavitana, who was clearly edgy and eventually nicked an outswinger to Dhoni. Then came Mahela who, though lucky to escape off that first delivery, found Sreesanth pounding in relentlessly, banging the ball unerringly on the same spot.

Against Sangakkara, Sreesanth used the crease to produce his angle. He came round the wicket and bowled a slower ball that the Lankan captain picked smartly but had him next ball. It was a straighter one, fuller and wide on off stump and, though apparently harmless, Sangakkara dragged it on to his stumps. Thilan Samaraweera fell in the same fashion after being pegged down by Sreesanth's movement early on.

Sreesanth returned halfway into the second session when the two Jayawardenes - Mahela and Prasanna - were attempting to retrieve the situation. The ball was old and with his pace Sreesanth had the advantage of extracting reverse swing. Continuing to attack the off stump Sreesanth speared a toe crusher into Prasanna. The Lankan got his bat down in the nick of time but the crowd roared as the Indians appealed anyway. The next ball, though, Sreesanth pitched on the seam, cut the ball out and the batsman went fishing. This time contact with the bat was debatable but the decision went the bowler's way.

Fast-bowling greats like Allan Donald have always cited Sreesanth's example to youngsters, particularly pointing to his erect wrist position at the point of release as exemplary. The energy, the ability to swing at 140-plus speeds, and that priceless quality of pitching ball after ball on the same spot make Sreesanth a terrific package.

He would soon bend Ranganna Herath's off stump with another straightening delivery to bag his second five-for - roughly three years after his first, during India's brilliant victory in Johannesburg in 2006.

Perhaps that performance became Sreesanth's albatross, increasing public expectations and, indeed, those in his own mind. He was 24, relatively green, and wanting to get a wicket every ball. The next three years were up and down, with lots of plateau thrown in, and a 19-month spell on the sidelines.

He now seems to have turned full circle. Sreesanth's fast bowling skills have never been in question: fast-bowling greats like Allan Donald have always cited his example to youngsters, particularly pointing to his erect wrist position at the point of release as exemplary. The energy, the ability to swing at 140-plus speeds, and that priceless quality of pitching ball after ball on the same spot make Sreesanth a terrific package.

The doubts that have persisted have always been about his temperament. He was always vulnerable to adrenalin and bravado, a heady mix that has frustrated and irritated the team management, co-players and selectors.

Though he spent a month at Warwickshire and then the season-opening Irani Cup, no one, perhaps not even the man himself, knew whether he was ready for the return. He was fined during the Irani Cup game for abusing an opponent and received a stiff warning from the BCCI against breaching the code of conduct. And it's fair to say his selection for the first two Tests did not evoke universal approval.

Remarkably amidst such chaos Sreesanth maintained his calm. All through the last two weeks he has been restrained, doing his job, head down in a silent manner. In training session teammates have consciously left him alone, while praising him silently as he bowled at good speeds, beating the bat consistently.

He's been quiet since his comeback. And today, he let the ball do the talking.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alex on November 27, 2009, 8:08 GMT

    Sree is a good bowler when he do not have antics. But you can't separate antics from sreesanth. he will continue to his attention seeking antics once his place in the team is secure.

    For me i do not care about antics as long as he takes 5 -10 wickets each game. We can't have his antics when he leak runs and take only few wickets. Too much maintenance.

    Indian bowlers are weak because of two things , They lack stamina and strength. Diet and weight lifting. Until there is culture develops into weight lifting , india can't produce out and out fast bowler. Indian fast bowler bowl well until he gets into the team then he declines from there onwards. It is pattern that is well chronicled.

    it is easy to take wicket when the pressure was in opposition. India lost because mainly because of bad captaincy of sangakkara as he let indians score too many singles and can't apply pressure. May be srilanka need real fast bowlers. Without that they can't win overseas.

  • REJI on November 27, 2009, 6:37 GMT

    CONGRATZ SREE for your splendid cme bck...wish u all the best...keep the energy level...

  • kathir on November 27, 2009, 6:24 GMT

    nice to see sree is playing like this. his ball speaks everything for him

  • Sridhar on November 27, 2009, 5:45 GMT

    Good thinking by Sree. This turn around is good for him and his game as well. Keeping cool will let him think positively to produce good bowling spells. Good luck!

  • Santhosh Prabhu on November 27, 2009, 4:55 GMT

    @all who spoke bad of sreesanth earlier, take a bow. He got wickets in easy balls, and he bowled them particularly to get rid of them U gotta see the rest of the balls in those overs and before when he got the wicket, all the balls were unplayable.... Great strategy. Cool Stuff.... Way to go INDIA and Sree

  • Pradeep on November 27, 2009, 4:44 GMT

    amazing how a below-par wicket makes a below par bowler look good..... i'll be amazed when India finally makes a genuine quality test wicket

  • P Subramani on November 27, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    I felt very happy for Sreesanth after his fine return to top level cricket. From all accounts, he is good as far fast bowling is concerned. He has pace, a good wrist position at the point of delivery, athleticism, and subltle movement both of seam and in the air. He also has a fine yorker. Perhaps as Alan Donald's care at Warwickshire has sharpened his skills to the high levels needed in international cricket. Perhaps, Sreesanth will benefit from another observation of Donald. That is in regard to his front arm at the delivery stride. Donald is sure that Sreesanth can get lethal late swing if he were to overcome that minor glitch.I only wish that his succes on comeback motivates him to becoming a perfect fast medium bowler like Richard Hadlee and Kapil Dev. He has it in him and can be there unless he returns to his silly and errant self.

  • Jason on November 27, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    Its great to see people make an effort and change to become better human beings. You shouldn't judge people by what they did in the past because people can change. I just hope he can maintain this against the Australians etc. Indians and Sri Lankans normally get along very well so he wouldn't have been aggressive anyway..

  • Vibhu on November 27, 2009, 4:35 GMT

    Its nice to see Sree back in the team with a bang. Augurs well for Indian cricket.

    I would also like to see India play more tests. Its more thrilling than slam-bang T20.

  • Md on November 27, 2009, 4:07 GMT

    Sreesanth was always a good bowler.I don't think there was doubt about his talent, it was just the case of his temparament.Now with no any verbal duel by him all we can hope him to be one of the best fast bowlers of world.Good luck

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